I interviewed two friends of mine recently for an article I’m writing, and I’ve known both of them since the beginning of my freshman year. I’ve always bonded with them because of our similarities–deep thinking, lots of laughing, and passion for what we do–but I never fully appreciated some of our differences until I began asking specific questions about their take on life purpose, or calling, and their worldview, which is central to the article I interviewed them for, which is about the anxiety of college students seeking direction for their career and life.
It’s not even that we had never discussed the subject before; it was that I was more aware and in command of my own views and beliefs on work, life, and purpose, and thus better able to discern and understand how I differ from others.
I learned from my two friends that they view work primarily as a way to affect positive change in the world, and that personal motivation and considerations, such as deep commitment to one activity or occupation, are less important; I, on the other hand, value the personal satisfaction derived from one fulfilling activity or occupation in the long term more than I do socially utilitarian considerations. It’s not that my friends don’t want to be personally enriched by their work for its own sake, because of course they do; and, likewise, of course I want my work to contribute in significant and positive ways to the world around me.
The real difference, then, is priority: I want to engage in one occupation that is meaningful to me, and makes a positive difference in the lives of others; my two friends want to make a positive difference in lots of ways, for there are many areas that interest them.
Once I discovered this, I kept pressing my friends during their interviews to see if they might arrive at a preference similar to mine–but they never did. They kept coming back to their desire to pique several interests, and to do something they feel is world-changing above all else.
I was forced to conclude that unique preferences and desires are more important to our quest for fulfilling work than preconceived notions about how we’re supposed to occupy ourselves as professionals, and that different people are enriched and satisfied in different ways.
What really surprised me about all this is that I considered myself and these two friends to all be extremely similar at our core; but when I started diving deeper and asking harder questions, I discovered that we’re all fundamentally different in ways I didn’t expect. Far from driving us apart, I actually think my bond is stronger with these two friends of mine now, because we know each other better and on a deeper level than we did before, and we appreciated each other for it. If that’s not great friendship, I don’t know what is!
What interesting conversations have you had with your friends recently, and what have you learned from them? I want to hear your thoughts!